Counting for Cuckoos


The news that the Cuckoo has been added to the Red List of birds of conservation concern was widely broadcast in May, but the British Trust for Ornithology is concerned about declines in many of our other African migrants. The Wood Warbler and Pied Flycatchers have undergone declines of 60% since 1994. Nightingales, Spotted Flycatchers and Garden Warblers also seem to be in trouble and even the Willow Warbler is close to being red-listed.

Cuckoo, Mull, Argyll (Photo: Alan Saunders)

To investigate why these declines are taking place, the BTO has launched their 'Out of Africa' Appeal, to raise funds to gather basic information about when birds arrive in Africa, the habitats they use and how they move around within this vast continent. They will also be developing working relationships with conservationists in Europe and Africa. Closer to home, the appeal will fund analysis of the data gathered via the Nest Record and Ringing Schemes for our migrants in the UK.

One of the species-specific projects will use the latest lightweight dataloggers, turning individual Nightingales into long-distance sentinels, gathering information on locations and routes after they depart from England. This will revolutionise our understanding of their migration and, as part of a wider project with Birdlife partners in Europe and Africa, help to target effective, informed conservation action.

Nightingale, Minsmere RSPB, Suffolk (Photo: Ian Goodall)

You can help us fund these projects by joining our Summer Bird Count 2009 — pack your picnic and binoculars and spot as many birds as you can. Choose a date between 28th August and 14th September, a time and location to suit yourself (your garden, on holiday or a day trip), then approach friends and family for sponsorship for every species you see.

The more bird species, the more money you will be raising to support our research into summer migrants. You may even be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of some of them as they depart on their epic journeys. Return your form and sponsorship money by 9th October to be entered into the prize draw for a pair of 8 x 32 EL binoculars (RRP £1250) courtesy of Swarovski — who have also kindly sponsored the BTO Summer Bird Count.

For more information and to download forms visit www.bto.org/appeals/birdcount.htm or call Rachel Irvine on 01842 750050.

Don’t forget all your sightings are useful to us. Why not add them into BirdTrack and make your birdwatching count.

Written by: BTO